While under-5 wasting stands at 47 million, the pandemic will add another 14.3 percentage points of this number.
The effects of the pandemic on food security have been clear for some time—indeed, the poor showing by states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar on the distribution of free food-grain under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana shows how, even with a public distribution system, there are far too many uncertainties for ensuring universal access to food. A recent report by the World Food Program estimates that, thanks to the pandemic, the number of people facing acute food insecurity in low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs) would double, to ~256 million, by the end of 2020. Disruptions in food supply and a drop in accessing of essential nutrients are chiefly to blame. Unicef had estimated a 30% reduction in the coverage of essential nutrients, which may reach to 75-100% if there are lockdowns. Countries already dealing with poor food security will be worse off due to the pandemic’s effect on incomes and supply-chains. A recent study published in The Lancet by the Standing Together for Nutrition consortium warns of wasting specific to Covid-19 disruptions amongst children under-5 years of age globally.
While under-5 wasting stands at 47 million, the pandemic will add another 14.3 percentage points of this number. This would amount to a total of 53.7 million children suffering from wasting globally; one in 10 child deaths in LMICs is due to severe wasting. In order to tackle this, UN agencies suggest a minimum support of $2.4 billion, covering prevention of wasting among at-risk children, biannual supplementation of vitamin A for children aged 6-59 months, and mass communication and advocacy for the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding. Also, governments and various stakeholders need to ensure that social protection schemes are expanded at a large-scale.